Lip-licking controller steers devices using tongue taps

Researchers at the University of Chicago called LipIO that receives and transmits digital information via small lip and tongue movements. This is obviously a boon to those with certain disabilities who may not have the use of their eyes or hands.

LipIO features a thin and flexible plastic sheet packed with conductive materials. The sheet is affixed to the skin along with electrodes that provide contact with the lip. The device works via electrostimulation, with the top layer receiving inputs from the tongue or lower lip via capacitive touch. The trio of researchers created the device using off-the-shelf hobbyist-grade components and have open-sourced all of their work.

While the lip system is perfect for people with disabilities, the inventors see plenty of alternative uses. Various demonstrations show LipIO being used to tune a guitar, receive navigation information while cycling and provide DJs with an additional control source for adding effects.

LipIO guitar tuner.

A. Jingu et al.

The tech could also be used for virtual reality applications. The research paper imagines a related haptic interface to, for instance, render a realistic sense of taste while in VR. In this case, the device would that successfully applied electrical stimulations to the tongue to render basic tastes like sour, salty, bitter and sweet. The researchers even imagine tasting “virtual ice cream” in the metaverse.

LipIO is a relatively cumbersome piece of hardware with plenty of wires, so the next step is to shrink the technology down so it is more practical for real-world use. The researchers also want to make the tech more appropriate for public spaces by eliminating the need to regularly lick your lips. 

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